Durant worked with an on-set acting coach, Richard Lawson, an actor and scene-study teacher with a 40-year career in film and television. Durant said Lawson told him to be himself and not overthink the performance.
“He gave me room to mess up and said it was natural, and I just became comfortable after a while,” Durant said. “That was the easiest thing I could do.”
When he was still a teenager and building his skills, the movies Durant watched in between games with the PG Jaguars in Prince George's County, Md., almost invariably centered on basketball. “Hoosiers,” “Coach Carter,” “Above the Rim” and “Space Jam” helped inspire him to greatness, he said.
Many basketball players have taken the plunge into movies, including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal (who makes an appearance in “Thunderstruck”), and the Miami Heat's Ray Allen, but Durant chose not to ask any advice from those players-turned-actors.
“It's not because I think I know it all,” Durant said. “But I do like to go through things like this on my own, and I'm the type of guy who likes being surprised a little bit when I'm facing something new.”
Beyond “Thunderstruck,” Durant is taking on another art form, one he has pursued quietly but that will soon get more attention. He will make his rapping debut on a new hip-hop album by Stephen Jackson of the San Antonio Spurs, who records under the name Stak5 and released a mixtape titled “What's a Lockout?” in 2011.
“Yeah, I'm going to be on his album — we made a song together, and I hope people enjoy that,” Durant said. “We're going to do a video for it, too. I'm really involved in music, and I like it a lot. It's one of those things I do in my off time, so I'm not just a basketball player.”
Durant has a recording studio in his Oklahoma City home, where he creates his own beats and records, as well as inviting local hip-hop stars such as Josh Sallee in for freestyle sessions.
His major inspirations include Jay-Z, Drake and the late Aaliyah, stars who started early and built careers from the ground up. Durant, 23, said that is one of the biggest commonalities between basketball and hip-hop: Both art forms are populated by self-starters who developed their passions for their respective pursuits during childhood.
“I heard a rapper say, ‘Basketball players want to be rappers and rappers want to be basketball players,' and it's true, you know what I mean?” Durant said. “We respect each other's crafts, and I'm just trying to do it as a hobby for now.”
And so far, acting is still a sideline pursuit. Durant said he is happy with “Thunderstruck” and appreciates the local support, but emphasizes that while he is on top of one game, he is new to this one.
“It's a fun movie,” Durant said. “Take your kids to see it and go into it with an open mind. I know I'm a basketball player, and I know they're probably not used to seeing basketball players in films, but go into it with an open mind, and you'll enjoy it.”
Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.